King, Warrior, Magician, Lover (KWML) – archetypes of the mature Masculine by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum

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King, Warrior, Magician, Lover (KWML) – archetypes of the mature Masculine

by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum, posted June 5, 2009

A brief introduction to the KWML archetypes of the mature masculine

The seminal work by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette that underlies this article.

As any man with life experience knows, life is a constant struggle wherein the desired goal is our attainment of inner peace as well as the ability to give and receive love fearlessly. On this journey of discovery and growth, there are many forces within us that battle for attention. Our personality is not a single entity with one homogenous voice as much as it is a variety of different voices that battle for dominance. Sometimes unfamiliar voices may shock or delight, and sometimes worn out voices may become so irritating, so jarring, so profoundly removed from what we want to hear, that we come to hate ourselves.

One of the most important types of work we can can do in our growth into maturity is to identify and befriend these voices, so that they find and relax into their rightful place in what becomes an increasingly integrated psyche. Maybe we must tune some voices down, others a little up. Maybe we must make the baritone into a soprano, the bass into a tenor. Whatever voices are within us, our primary mission in life is to conduct them from being a cacophony to being a beautiful and powerful choir. Such important work requires a powerful framework, a model for teaching, learning, and living. That is why we will now dive into the deep waters of the archetypes known as King, Warrior, Magician, Lover (KWML).

Jung did very important, revolutionary work on the archetypes and the collective unconscious. In his work he speaks of the anima, the feminine within us, and the animus, the masculine within us. He further expounds that the anima and animus have four stages of development. And while these stages probably warrant an article unto themselves, Jung is merely mentioned in this context as a facilitator for the discovery of the KWML archetypes. Jung described four stages in his model, from immature to mature: Eve/Adam, Helen/Planner, Mary/Professor, Sophia/Guide as stages of an evolutionary path whereby the last stage is more evolved then the first. The KWML-model, on the other hand, attributes equal importance to all archetypes, claiming no superiority of one over another*.

* However, depending on cultural conditions, some archetypes may be more needed than others.

However, as outlined in the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover – Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine by Douglas Gillette and Robert Moore, there is a clear line drawn between immature archetypes – boy psychology – and mature archetypes – man psychology. In boy psychology, there is in the model a clearly delineated path of evolution, which yields to a more open landscape with the onset of man psychology. Additionally, within each of the four archetype axises, is not only an immature and a mature stage, but a pyramid structure of the boy and of the man wherein we find the integrated archetype at the apex, and active and passive bipolar shadow aspects in the left and right corners (fig. 1).


Fig. 1: The KWML model

It is important to recognize that when we are not in conscious relationship with an archetype, we are automatically ruled by its bipolar shadow. And when we are ruled by the shadow archetype, we tend to switch back and forth between the active and passive poles, completely at the mercy of events.

What we learn from this system is that healing and integration becomes possible when we recognize that one archetype dominates too strongly in our psyche, and must be balanced by another, or when we recognize that the archetypes we animate are sourced in the active or passive shadow poles, as opposed to the integrated and mature aspect.

Now, let’s take a brief look at what makes a boy before we look at the man and his archetypes up close.

Understanding the Boy

The differences between a boy and a man should be apparent, but in our current cultural climate, we seem to have lost this understanding. Boyhood has come to dominate the male population of Western culture, and manhood discarded as dark, destructive, scary, and problematic. The boy has been pushed to occupy the space left behind by the man – something he is not ready for – and his values of youth, physical vitality, and beauty come to dominate. He has been celebrated through diverse cultural phenomena, such as the boyband, young, rebellious athletes, the irresponsibility and «don’t give a damn»-attitude proselytized by the advertising industry (look no further than Coca Cola Zero adverts), the take-what-I-want-and-fuck-you-if-you-try-to-stop-me of parts of the music industry, the self-serving ways of young stockbrokers and real estate agents etc, the wave of movies in which immature men are turned into poster boys, the admiration of heroics, the celebration of youth over wisdom etc. The list goes on.

The problem with this is that we end up with a very limited view of masculinity, one rooted in insecurity and the desire for sex, fame, money, and power. We become so uprooted in ourselves, separated from our true core, that we define ourselves through external factors. We must recognize one basic fact: The boy is the slave of his ego. He often has little control over his nervous system, and fries his life energy on pointless mental pursuits and drama. He is the guy who can’t sit still and can’t tolerate silence. He is the guy who freaks out from prolonged eye contact. He is the guy who is easily insulted, who tries very hard to be seen (or equally hard not to be), who fishes for love and is easily hurt. He is the guy who has little structure and integrity in life, and who – despite his myriad claims to goodness – won’t stand up for a friend in times of need. It’s not that he doesn’t want to do the right thing. It’s that he is not able to. His life is in disarray and he is completely under the spell of the feminine, and is happy only as long as mummy is close. This is the subconscious mother, the archetypal mother, the feminine as a whole – not necessarily the biological mother. The purpose of the Hero archetype, the last archetype of boyhood psychology, is to break free from this bondage to the Feminine.

The first three archetypes of boyhood psychology are: The Divine Child, the Precocious Child, and the Oedipal Child. These, as well as the Hero, will be featured in detail later on. For now, I choose to focus on the man.

Understanding the Man

The hero’s journey – the last step on the evolution of boy psychology – finally takes the boy into the realms of the man. This, however, often comes at great cost, and is often preceded by a time of existential crisis, what Robert Bly refers to as «ashes work». In the legends, the story always ends when the hero returns having slain the dragon, rescued the princess, and received the kingdom as reward. It doesn’t describe the enormous difficulty the hero has settling into his adult responsibilities as king, and doesn’t investigate his ability to stay faithful to his new queen, or his inclination to throw it all away – all those nasty responsibilities – to ride into the world on his trusty stallion once more.

We said that the defining characteristic of the Boy is his enslavement to his ego. The defining characteristic of the Man is his mastery of it. The Man has subjugated his ego and turned it into an ally. This is impossible unless the crisis of ashes has first been lived or worked through. Any boy who is to become a man must feel his fearful way through the utter pointlessness of everything to serve the world. And it is of course exactly because our lives are so safe and comfortable that most of us never grow up to serve, never leaving boyhood behind.

Let’s look at the archetypes of the man, starting with the King, before we move on to the others. What follows are effectively summaries of the chapters in Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette’s book.

The King

The King is the source of order in the kingdom. If he is a wise and just king, the kingdom prospers, people eat well and are safe from harm. In the kingdom of the wise king, laughter rings through the lands, the crops shoot up high, joyful celebrations keep the woods awake, merchants travel with overflowing carts to lively markets. The king is the harmonizing principle, the subjugator of chaos, the uniter of opposites. He is the channel through which the gods communicate, and he channels divine blessings to his people and the lands (to whom he is «wed»). He is selfless, and puts the good of his people above his own needs. When the King grows weak, darkness threatens the borders of the kingdom, the sun disappears from the sky, and the crops wither and die. When the king dies, he knows, he is merely replaced by another in a lineage of divinely blessed kings, which humbles him (remember the saying «The King is dead, long live the King»).

In the psyche of the man, the King archetype is the central archetype, around which the rest of the psyche is organized. If the King energy in us is weak, our psyche falls in disarray, and chaos threatens our lands. The man who is constantly overwhelmed by life – who can’t seem to find harmony or order – must develop the King energy, often in conjunction with Warrior energy to protect his borders.

The two main functions of the King are:

  • Live according to the Tao, the Dharma, the Word, and the lands will flourish
  • Bring fertility and blessing. The King is the masculine equivalent of the Great Mother, and he is wed to the lands. The king’s vitality and sexuality directly reflect on his kingdom.

The Shadow King: The Tyrant and the Weakling

The Tyrant is the active pole of the Shadow King. The Tyrant, unlike the King, is not the harmonizing center of the kingdom, and his power is so fragile that he hates with a passion all new life; the beauty and purity of a mere baby boy threatens the Tyrant’s rule. He does not realize that a King is merely a channel, and wants the power to be associated with himself. He will even develop godly pretensions to cover up his enormous insecurity. His degradation of others and all beauty is limitless, as everything good, true, and beautiful reminds him of his own shortcomings. He is extremely sensitive to criticism, and will be deflated by the slightest remark, responding with rage, when what he feels is fear and vulnerability.

The Weakling is the passive pole of the Shadow King. He is not centered in himself and lacks inner peace and harmony, and is prone to paranoia. He suspects that those around him are disloyal, and his fear of betrayal will inevitably cause him to switch over to the Tyrant to control them.

The Magician

The Magician is the wise man, the sage, the knower of secrets. He sees and navigates the inner worlds, he understands the dynamics and energy flows of the outer. He is a master of technology, engineering, mathematics, mysticism, and logic. He reads the stars, navigates the soul, and writes the laws. In the legends, he is the King’s close advisor, who stops the regent’s anger with cool rationality before he acts rashly and channels to him knowledge from hidden sources. The Magician is the thinker, and all knowledge that requires special training is his domain. The Magician has the capacity to detach from events – the chaos of the world – and draw on essential truths and resources deep within him. He thinks clearly in times of crisis, and enables us to take a broader view of things. He governs the observing ego, and is the meditator that reveals the truth of the universe, the shaman who communicates with the ancestors and stars

The Shadow Magician: The Manipulator and the Denying «Innocent» one.

The Manipulator is the active pole of the Shadow Magician. He works in covert ways to undermine others. He withholds crucial information, and deliberately sets others up so as to appear inferior to himself. The specialist knowledge he possesses makes him feel proud and gives him a feeling of being better than. That feeling is all he lives for, so he is not prepared to share his knowledge, unless the price is right (and even then probably withholding crucial details). He will rather use it as a weapon, ready to strike when the impact is the most devastating.

The Innocent one is the passive pole of the Shadow Magician. He wants the status belonging to a true Magician, but he doesn’t want the responsibilities. He doesn’t want to be burdened with helping, of setting up sacred space for others’ learning. His main focus is to learn exactly enough to sabotage those who are trying their damndest to make a difference, so that no other man will achieve that which he is too lazy to strive for. He is envious of the vitality of others, because he is so «flat» himself. Whenever confronted with his elusive and destructive behaviour, he responds «who, me?». He is a master at manipulating others into thinking that it really wasn’t his doing, a carefully crafted puppet theatre conducted behind the smokescreen of the Manipulator.

The Warrior

The warrior is a powerhouse of energy, the source of which is a transpersonal commitment. He is fiercely loyal to his warrior code – which is his honor – and to the king, who mythologically represents his purpose. The warrior is not concerned about his own comfort and security in pursuit of his goal, as his training teaches him to live with death as his constant companion. The domain of the Warrior is the battlefield – be it a battlefield of war, of spirituality, or of moral ethics. The Warrior’s purpose is often to destroy, but the mature warrior destroys only that which is negative and harmful to the world. He is a master tactician, knowing at all times his limitations, and finds creative ways around them. The warrior is not a thinker, he is a doer. Thinking is his enemy, because it inhibits his ability to act swiftly and with force. He trains himself not to think, and becomes a master of his mind, attitudes, and body. The warrior is detached from life, with an almost infinite ability to withstand psychological and physical pain in pursuit of his goal. He is a little «unhuman», always chasing his next big goal, always putting emphasis on his mission as opposed to his relationships.

The Shadow Warrior: The Sadist and the Masochist

The Sadist is the active pole of the Shadow Warrior. The Warrior’s detachment from life leaves the door open to cruelty. The Warrior is most vulnerable in the area of relationships, where he must constantly stay vigilant of his mind and emotions. They must not be repressed, but be under control, lest cruelty sneak into him while he isn’t looking. The Sadist hates weakness and vulnerability, which is a projection of his hidden Masochist, and will take great glee in tormenting those unfortunate souls that remind him of his shadow. The Sadist directed inwards has people running themselves into the ground out of deep anxiety. They have low sense of self-worth, and will endure great self-torment on their way to burnout.

The Masochist is the passive pole of the Shadow Warrior. The Masochist projects Warrior energy onto others, and experiences himself as impotent and vulnerable in their presence. He is unable to defend himself psychologically and allows others to manipulate and mess with him. A man might endure enormous amounts of abuse until one day he might snap, and percolate back to the Sadist.

The Lover

The lover is finely attuned to the realm of the senses and worships beauty. He is a musician, poet and artist, and a lover of all things, both inner and outer. He is passionate, and delights in touching and being touched. He wants to always stay connected, and does not recognize boundaries. He wants to experience the world as one ongoing big orgasm of hearts uniting as One. He is the mystic who feels everything as himself, and the source of all intuition. Through his feeling capacity, he is finely attuned to people’s energy, capable of reading them like an open book. His desire for love and connectedness considered, feeling into other people and discovering dark intentions is a painful experience for him. He is opposed to all structures that maintain separateness – of all law and order that keep hearts lonely and isolated. He is, in other words, opposed to all the other archetypes. The Lover is crucial in keeping the other archetypes energized, humane, and in touch with the ultimate purpose of love. The Lover keeps them from turning dark.

The Shadow Lover: The Addicted and the Impotent Lover

The Addicted Lover is the active pole of the Shadow Lover. He is constantly searching for the fulfillment of his sensual desires. A true hedonist, he throws himself into a never-ending and exhausting search for sensual fulfillment, without ever really knowing what he truly looks for. He is pulled around by circumstances and his constantly shifting desires, never finding rest. A woman here, a women there, then music, art, fine wine – whatever keeps his sensual side alive. The Addicted lover has not solidified in his internal structures, and will forever hunt for the attainment of his desire, helplessly shackled to the desire for union with Mother (the realm of sensory experience is the realm of the Feminine).

The Impotent Lover is the passive pole of the Shadow Lover. He is chronically depressed, and feels cut off from himself and others. He loses his zest for life, his energy all but gone.He is sexually inactive, and will withdraw from all demands that are placed on him and his sexuality. If his partner becomes too demanding, requesting a sex life from him he is incapable to offer, his feelings of imprisonment may propel him out of the relationship and onto the endless road of addiction that is the domain of the Addicted Lover.

Working with the archetypes

A September 2010 addition to this article, this conclusive part on working with the archetypes is needed for the reader who actually wishes to go further with this information. I have experienced something remarkable in studying the archetypes – where most conceptual learning has a tendency to make me feel heady and intellectual, reading about the archetypes has an odd pull downwards and inwards. It’s as if these ancient voices of archetypal, mythical men wants me to descend into the subterranean parts of my inner world. When I learned that the reptilian brainstem lights up when the archetypes activate in a person, it made perfect sense to me; these energies are ancient.

The quality of tuning into this material is unlike anything I have ever felt before − and I have studied a lot by now. My experience is that if we let ourselves soak in this material − let its wisdom seep into our pores − we will become prone to recognizing archetypal patterns in our daily lives. In that context, it’s vital to note, as previously suggested, that lest we have a conscious and mature relationship to the archetype, we are ruled by its bipolar shadow. In other words, the man who says such a thing as “I have no need for the Warrior archetype” is by default ruled by the bipolar sadist/masochist. A peace-loving, Warrior-denying hippie may for example be really strong on the masochist, touching his inner sadist on his more violent days.

Similarly, a stern, authoritarian patriarch faced with the challenge of expressing appreciation of beauty may think that is “for faggots”. Unfortunately, that will make him sexually impotent and/or frustrated and then when he’s tired of that, he may swing into the position of the Addicted Lover (sometimes this is the point at which a homophobe may “come out of the closet”, which may or may not be an authentic expression of his sexual identity. See American Beauty). It’s a painful fact that anything that is not brought into light ends up controlling our lives from the shadows. What we resist persists.

So in actually working with the archetypes, awareness of them is as always the first step. While an information product on how to work on the archetypes in our daily lives is in the pipeline, I want to outline a few practices and give some brief advice on how to identify which of your archetypes are healthy and which ones aren’t (we will often mature in the four archetypal quadrants in parallel, but there may be some discrepancies).

If you draw a blank when feeling into any of these archetypes, chances are its bipolar shadow is running your life. So that is the home work for now: pick one of the practices below (which facilitate growth and integration) and use them to develop that archetype in you which is most in need of growing up. And if you are so inclined, come back when more material is made available here. The newsletter (signup form in the sidebar) will help you keep up to date.

  • King: Start a men’s group. Host a dinner party. Do a presentation in which you care more about the interiority of the members of the audience than looking good. Start seeing the impact you have on other people’s wellbeing and tune into the feeling that the people around you are citizens of your very own kingdom. They are in your care.
  • Warrior: Take up martial arts. Exercise. Engage in a confrontation you have postponed. Always tell the truth. Maintain perfect integrity. Work on maintaining good boundaries.
  • Magician: Do DIY engineering projects. Study the stars. Study the KWML archetypes. Study anything. Build a small laboratory and get to know the world of chemicals. Take up spirituality in order to penetrate the mysteries of the Cosmos. Teach something.
  • Lover: Express your appreciation of beauty. Take up dance lessons. Do sensuality practices. Turn sex into your art. Listen to music that moves you (yes, move with it) and make really enjoying it a practice of presence (many people who “enjoy music” use it as a distraction from life. In practicing the Lover archetype, you should not). Start playing an instrument. Sing.

These are but a few ideas. Trust your intuition and get started. You cannot afford to let this opportunity pass you by.

Video introductions to the archetypes

Understanding the Masculine and the Feminine

by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum, posted April 8, 2009

What is the Masculine? What is the Feminine? These questions have reverberated through the pathways of my mind for the past several years. And as the authentic curiosity of this ancient question has carved its own way through the layers of my mind, some lights have been lit.

Sometimes others ask me this question, knowing that I have some expertise on the subject, and sometimes I take the initiative myself. My experience is that some people turn out more interested in wrestling egos and becoming more entrenched in personal stories of pain; this is after all a controversial topic that reaches us at the root level of identity − sexual and personal. Most, however, are curious. Yet, getting the message across, even to the willing, can be hard.

The challenge of communicating the obvious

A main frustration, as I’ve come to learn about these forces of nature, these primary expressions of consciousness, is the radical difficulty in conveying them as being far more fundamental, way more primordial than simple personal opinion. “Interesting way of looking at it” is not the kind if response I would expect or desire from someone who has just been exposed to one of the greatest mysteries and deepest truths, yet simplest everyday realities of the Universe.

Masculine and Feminine – as polar opposite forces not just in humans, but in all creation – are, just as the sun is. It is perhaps a speculative thing to claim in this scientific era, when all the forces of the universe should be measurable with unconscious machines, and still, only the most shut down human being can deny it. Even if abstractions of the mind can make us shake our heads and say “nonsense”, we all accept the truth of them at much deeper levels hundreds of times every day. They shape our ideas of sexiness in either gender, our style of communication, our relation to the world. Most of all, however, they represent an inner experience that can be felt within seconds of applying the methodologies of accessing them.

It is true, ideas about the Masculine and the Feminine are speculative seen from the perspective of dead machines. The reason for this is that the two polarities, and the experience of them, are based in the non-material world, in the world of consciousness and energy. We find them shine through in our emotions, our fears and desires, the archetypes that speak through us, the thoughts we think, and the dreams that take us into vast realms of our collective unconscious.

The science of the mind – consciousness – and largely also of subtle energy fields is the domain primarily of Eastern spirituality and philosophy, although awareness is increasing also in Western science, as seen in the Mind and Life institute, Quantum Physics etc. Deeply rooted in several of the mentioned Eastern traditions, and also in their contemporary application by people such as David Deida, is the understanding that the Feminine flows, radiates, and embraces, whereas the Masculine penetrates and is anchored, totally still, in its transcendence of that which moves. Another way of putting it is saying that the Masculine is the emptiness of (ego) death while the Feminine is the fullness of life (death and life, Shiva and Shakti in Hinduism). Yet another: the Feminine is the river and the Masculine its banks. A river without banks is a destructive force of chaos. A bank without a river is no bank at all, just a lonely heap of dust in an infinite expanse of nothing.

Masculine and Feminine as geometry

The primordial Masculine, as found on the US dollar bill. Triangular, pointing up above, to the all-knowing Eye. This symbol is also linked with myriad conspiracy theories and warnings of a new world order, which – regardless of their authenticity – speak to the importance of integrating feminine ethics and care into the psyche of men. Masculine ascension alone, with no heart, creates Darth Vader.

Let’s look at some practical examples, let’s look at geometry. If we are to look at the Masculine and Feminine through the lens of geometry, we can see the Masculine as a triangle1 (or more simply, a line) and the Feminine as a circle. The Masculine seen as the triangle is straight-edged and angular. Its two bases connect it to the Earth – offers it stability – and facilitates its primary motion of ascension and penetration. When we trace the shape, we see that we must make swift and drastic turns at a moment’s notice. Once the Masculine gets going, the triangle shows us, it’s totally linear in its direction, until it is forced to change direction due to unplanned for circumstances (and then, when done from a place of masculine purity, it is a purposeful and courageous turn, not a reactive and cowardly turn). The triangle, just like the line, pierces open space; it shoots up high, above the clouds, and observes the world from a certain level of distance. It is able to “zoom out” of the details, and view everything from a bird’s eye view; or really, the eye of God.

The Feminine is the circle. It flows like the river. It radiates like a flower most sublime. It moves in smooth, liquid ways. It finds its way into the smallest of holes, and will tear down the greatest obstacle on its way to the sea. The circle has no inherent logic in it. The energy it represents is not going anywhere, it spins around in circles (which is where the Masculine comes in). The Feminine circle embraces. It is the wheel of life. Like the human embryo, it is a vessel that gives rise to the future.

We can see signs of the same geometry in the bodies of men and women. The man’s body is more angular and straight-edged. The torso, in its most idealised form is an inverted triangle (broad shoulders, narrow waist). A man who is round (in the sense of fat) tends to lose part of his masculine energy. The woman, on the other hand, is a shapely and delightful being. Her hips flow like the river in sexy, tantalizing ways. Her breasts are planets and her buttocks the shapely hills and valleys of nature. Only She could get God to stand up from his chair, to engage with the world of form, as seen in the story of Mary, as a channel for the Goddess, in the New Testament. Yet, sexual identity has been sent a bit of a curveball lately, and we can see in the contemporary trend of impoverished supermodels how women lose their femininity when they lose their curves and radiance. They start looking like teenage boys instead of women, much to the excitement of the gay old men who make them appear so.

The geometry of the Feminine is easily found in nature, from the planets and stars that flow through the open void in circular paths of orbit, to microorganisms in the body. Masculine geometry, however, is rarely found in nature, aside from those forms that point to the sky. Primarily, the Masculine in sits up above, on the Divine Chair in the Sky, observing the Feminine with perfect curiosity. Then it goes in, and starts using its talent for structure and order to create maps and diagrams, proportions and schematics, facilitating the flow of natural chaos through its own inherent talent for order. The Masculine, then, is easily at home in the realm of cool rationality and analysis, and is masterful at identifying patterns. We can extrapolate and condense: The Feminine is the domain of Chaos, whereas the Masculine is the domain of Order. (seen as pathological extremes in politics as Anarchy vs Fascism). One cannot exist without the other.

Finally, the literal example of our genitalia must surely be mentioned. The flaccid penis hangs down to the Earth (the main seat of the Feminine), and as the man fills with sexual energy, the penis rises and points to the Sky, to the primary seat of masculine energy; the Feminine facilitates the Masculine’s return home (and vice versa). The vagina, on the other hand, responds to sexual energy by becoming moist and open. It is, through the power of menstruation and childbirth, connected to the Earth. Sex between man and woman represents the ultimate energetic merger of the Universe, between the angular and the round, the penetrative and the embracing. It is a cosmic principle, described eloquently by the Daoists of China as Yin and Yang.

Masculine and Feminine in our daily lives

Feminine sexiness is directly related with flow and radiance

Let’s reduce the level of abstraction a little and return to the world of clothes we just dipped our toe in while discussing fashion above. There seems to be general agreement about, in the main part of the population, that dresses look feminine, and suits look masculine. This is “just how it is”. We have all come to accept this, regardless of whether we accept the larger concepts hitherto presented. Why do dresses look feminine? Answer – they flow. A woman turns, and her dress envelops her in lush colours and exciting displays of motion. A man turns, however, and his neatly ironed suit barely brushes against the space that surrounds it. His motion is kept at a functional minimum, carving, as he is, through space on his way to fulfill a mission somewhere.

What about hair? A woman with long hair turns and a cascade of motion, little stories of years and seasons come and gone, flutter through the air. A man turns and his short hair hardly moves. And why would it? It would just get in the way of what is to be done.

This concept goes down to a level of minute detail. If a man grows his hair or puts on a scarf, regardless of fashions or trends, he instantly becomes more feminine.* Because now, he is wearing flow. Now, let it be clear that this is not a bad thing. For the man who wants to be masculine, a strategically chosen element of feminine energy in his clothing, relatively small and controlled, may go a long way to emphasize his manliness even further. We often see this principle take form as colourful, patterned ties (masculine in its linear form, feminine in its colours) or handkerchiefs.

In communication, the flow of words and gestures is feminine. The ability to observe (listen) and decisively pierce the circle (direct the Feminine), and to turn the corner of the triangle (reach the goal), is masculine. When a man is the source of a constant stream of more or less well thought-out tidbits of communication, he animates feminine energy. Yet again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it pays to bring attention to it if we have chosen that we desire to grow our masculine. The masculine communicator listens, looks deeply and relaxedly into your eyes, and then brings himself down from the chair of God, only to direct the minutiae of the communication before he steps back to witness yet again. He does this while still remaining perfectly in touch with the human experience through his open heart.

Thoughts and emotions

Rodin’s Thinker. Thinking is a necessary part of the masculine’s problem-solving. Yet, thoughts are feminine in nature and may overcome us by their torrential downpour if we are not careful to regularly charge our masculine energy in the spring of Emptiness.

Now, let’s look at thoughts. Remember, anything that flows is the Feminine. So, when thoughts barrel through our heads, or swirl like a summer breeze through the neural pathways of our brains, again we are under the influence of feminine energy. Masculine forms of spiritual practice, such as Zen meditation, have always been about stepping out of the flow of thought to observe everything from the outside. It is about developing the Witness, just another way of speaking about the primordial Masculine sitting on the chair high in the mythical Sky. So the man who is constantly being led by the nose by his own thoughts is animating feminine energy.

Really, it doesn’t matter how hard the macho guy bashes his chest or how loud he screams; when thoughts are blowing like a hurricane through his mind, feminine energy has overpowered him, and his feeble attempts to overcome it through pathetic displays of manliness only further entrenches him in his well-defended immaturity. A man can still be a passionate thinker, but the more active his mind is, the deeper his need to dip his toe into primordial consciousness, the everpresent stillness behind and beyond. Otherwise, his mind – the Feminine – overpowers him, and his ability to do anything directed with his life diminishes.

Finally, emotions have traditionally in our culture been seen as displays of feminine energy. And by virtue of their flow, they are. Women are much more at ease with their emotional life than men are, much due to our cultural programming. But just like with all other forms of feminine energy, emotions are part and parcel of the feminine totality a man must embrace on his way to full masculine maturity.

This process is at stage 2 of David Deida’s model of evolution. It’s where men connect with their emotional bodies. The insight that comes out of the men’s work carried out by a brave brotherhood of pioneers around the world, is that a man who is to reach his full masculine maturity will never progress far down that road until he opens up his emotions. Yes, they are feminine energy, but just as women must integrate masculine energy before they can flower in full in their natural feminine essence, so must men integrate feminine energy before we, in turn, can safely find our way to our own seat of the Witness. And once we find it, we probably won’t use it much, as modern life requires us to get down and dirty with the chaotic forces of the world. But we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when we need it – our chair, our Throne, is always available, as it sits there in the vast, open void awaiting the return of our consciousness to its natural source before the beginning of time. Yet, when we get really good, our energy may remain seated in that chair, even as we ourselves leave it. That, we must assume, requires a lifetime of dedicated practice.


Masculine and Feminine are real forces that govern our lives. And which ones we personally identify with and animate is not dependent on gender so much as it is dependent on our unique sexual essence and what quality of consciousness we channel in every moment. For the woman who needs more masculine energy in her life, she needs to direct her energy to achieve a goal, to find that Throne in the Sky, and the man who needs more feminine energy in his life must open up his wounds, cry his grief, dance his joy, sing his yearning. But for most of us reading this, we must do exactly the opposite. As men, we must anchor ourselves in the everpresent feeling of Emptiness, sit in the chair of the Witness, and from there observe our life’s direction, flexibly turning around in an instant if our observation of circumstances requires us to. Our final challenge, then, is to press ever forward into the vast open mystery of Existence, giving our love from an open warrior heart in service of all.

* There is a wild man archetype that is at the very root of masculinity whose long hair is a symbol of his wildness more than his femininity. But that wildness also reflects his deep connection to nature. This aspect of the wildness is rarely embodied by the heavy metal musicians, bikers etc. who emulate the wild man.


The three stages of David Deida

by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum, posted February 23, 2009

This is a brief introduction to the three evolutionary stages presented in David Deida’s work. I have chosen to abbreviate them as “DD1”, “DD2” and “DD3” in other writing on this site. For more thorough and accurate information, please refer to his books.

DD1: The submissive housewife and the macho breadwinner

This stage has been the predominant stage globally up until quite recent times. It is characterised by strictly defined and rigidly upheld gender roles. The man is out in the world bringing home the food and the woman is at home caring for the children. The man dominates the woman with threats of physical violence and withholding of resources and the woman dominates the man with threats of emotional violence and withholding of sex. Intimate partners acting out of DD1 use their lover/spouse as a means to satisfy their own needs, selfishly manipulating the other to get what they desire. They tend to judge themselves by external factors, be it the size of their paycheck or the impeccability of their perfect household. Whenever we focus on ourselves and how we appear to others, we are in a first stage moment.

Modern caricatures of this stage are the big-spending gold digger, the too-good-to-be-true mother of 50s TV shows, the angry hip hop gangster and the money-hungry TV preacher.

DD 2: The working girl and the sensitive flow boy

The cultural emergence of this stage started in parallel with feminism and the gender equality movement. In the 2nd stage, people seek to become more integrated human beings. The emergence of DD2 has lead to women embracing masculine values and opportunities, becoming tougher and more independent, and men have embraced feminine flow and emotions, becoming more open and relating. Where people acting out of a first stage moment seek approval through their possessions and appearance, people in a second stage moment want to be appreciated for what they can do. Value is primarily determined by internal properties of the self.

The 2nd stage is very concerned that things should be done the right and proper way, and considers it important not to rock the boat too much. We gladly accept people’s boundaries, even when they wish we didn’t, and try not to escalate conflict. In intimate relationships, the tension of polarity often disappears and is replaced by a withholding of depth, often felt as repulsive by both partners. In societies, second stage is expressed as an aversion to conflict and an almost suffocating political correctness. You’re not allowed to judge or rank people, and everybody agrees to disagree.

The second stage individual is generally stuck in a perpetual self-improvement cycle that seems to lead nowhere, as the development often goes away from our true nature as opposed to towards. Happiness always looms on the horizon, but never quite arrives.

Modern caricatures of stage 2 are the directed female headhunter and career surgeon, and the male crystal healer and emo singer-songwriter.

DD 3: The radiant goddess and the warrior of love

For those rare souls fortunate enough to experience it, this stage is supposedly characterized as an ongoing state of gifting yourself to the world and your partner. The woman offers her divine radiance in service of her partner and the world, opening them up with the deep flow of her awesome life force and beauty. The man offers his unending integrity and stability, as an expression of his desire to penetrate the world with truth and love. This stage is not necessarily calm or peaceful, as the politically correct stage two prefers. These individuals know freedom and love intimately and consciously choose not to repress their true nature, which may offend those of lesser development. When a person expresses him- or herself through a third stage moment, their intention is to serve the world – or the people in it – in their opening to truth and love. Sometimes, their service won’t be appreciated, but since a person in a third stage moment has transcended the need to be validated by external or internal factors, it matters little.

In intimate relationships, the feminine third stage is expressed as pure, unfiltered life energy, bursting with love, expressed as wild storms or warm summer breezes. She is an oracle, a pure expression of the feminine, of nature Herself. She serves her man by seducing him out of his narrow-minded focus on getting things done, by sexing him out of his head and into his body, by shivering earthquakes of anger through her body as she hurls hail storms at him for being less than he is capable of. The man serves her in return by remaining unperturbed, unaffected by her wild emotions, pressing into her with his presence and love, as they both melt and fuse in the throes of ecstasy.

Who knows what a society filled with individuals operating from this stage would look like. Let’s find out!

An introduction to Spiral Dynamics

by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum, posted November 22, 2009


One of the most important realizations on the path of growth is that there are actually stages of development that you can grow through. If a man is unable to recognize that, then he may well end up shifting from strategy to strategy in life, from skill to skill, without actually growing at all. The realization that “there are other people who are more evolved than me” is of utmost importance for a man who is aiming for full maturity. It could very well be the most important thing of all. It is the prerequisite for mentoring and initiation, and in a culture that doesn’t give that, the individual must seek it himself.

This model was developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan based on the work of psychology professor Clare Graves and was popularized by Ken Wilber (whose perspective lead to the evolution of SDi – Spiral Dynamics integral). I’m no Spiral Dynamics expert, so please do further research on your own, and let this serve as merely a primer.

Quickly about consciousness tiers before we begin: First tier consciousness is a type of consciousness in which a person thinks that he and those who think like him are sole keepers of truth. They cannot see the truths of the other levels of development, even if they themselves previously held it (grew through it). When people of different first tier levels of development meet, they often end up arguing, without being able to really understand what the other person is saying at all. Spending time on such discussion is pointless.

In second tier, however, the person can see all levels of development that came before it, and embrace the value and truths inherent in all levels of development (this is not the same as postmodernism). Second tier individuals see the trajectory along which consciousness develops and are better equipped guiding others along this path themselves. We can see further down in this text that the more developed a person is, the more powerful he is. The numbers are from Ken Wilber’s A Theory of Everything, and are probably somewhat outdated. It is reasonable to think that the world has seen a shift towards higher levels of development since then.

And now, for the observable levels of development presented in the Spiral Dynamics model.

First tier consciousness

Beige (archaic-instinctual, identity not yet fully formed)

The beige level of consciousness is the first and least sophisticated level available to human beings. It features a barely developed sense of I, meaning it has little sense of being separate. Beige consciousness is basically only concerned with the most basic needs, food, water, sex, security etc.

Key word: Survival

Seen in: Infants, senile elderly, the starving etc.

Cultural impact: 0.1 percent of the population, 0 percent power

Purple (magic-animistic, identity not yet fully formed)

The purple level developed when human tribes first met. This traumatic experience required them to reorient themselves in the world and form new forms of civilization. Purple believes in magic; spirits of nature or the ancestors fly around casting spells and curses. Purple can develop irrational relationships to inanimate objects based on the idea that all objects, alive or otherwise, possess a soul. Can appear to some (myself included) to be a higher level of consciousness than it actually is.

Key word: Magic

Seen in: Voodoo curses, good luck charms, third world tribes etc

Cultural impact: 10 percent of the population, 1 percent of the power

Red (egocentric, individual)

At this stage, a separate sense of self distinct from the tribe develops. With this new-formed identity comes the wish to perpetuate its power and as a consequence red consciousness generally uses violence and aggressive means to barge ahead in life. The world is a dangerous place and to perpetuate the power of identity, all enemies must be destroyed.

Key words: Power and respect

Seen in: Terrible twos, feudal kingdoms, James Bond villains, Nazi Germany (part red, part blue), wild rock stars, Lord of the Flies etc.

Cultural impact: 20 percent of the population, 5 percent of the power

Blue (mythic, group)

This consciousness level leaves behind the chaotic narcissism of red in favour of law and order. Blue features very defined values, black and white, true and false, good and evil, saint and sinner. Violating the agreed upon code of conduct has very serious consequences, going to hell, being executed, imprisoned, exiled etc. There is only one way to think about things and the social structure is very hierarchical. Dogmatic religion and submission to a supernatural being, everything is predestined, sacrifice now to obtain later.

Key words: Purpose, justice

Seen in: Conservative politics, Republican party (part blue, part orange), patriotism, boy and girl scouts, fundamentalism, codes of chivalry and honor, ethnocentricity

Cultural impact: 40 percent of the population, 30 percent of the power

Orange (rational, individual)

At this stage of consciousness, the individual starts questioning the idea that everything is predestined. Perhaps there is no God in the sky that has everything all figured out. Man then starts taking responsibility for his own life and starts seeking his own answers and ways ahead in life. This level of consciousness is meritocratic – your worth is not based on who you are, but what you can do, and thus world-centric (a black man is worth just as much as a white man if he has the same skills). Science rules the day and the mystery of existence is all but gone, the world is a well oiled machine that is there to be used, even at the cost of the planet.

Key words: Skill

Seen in: Capitalism, fashion industry, the Western Enlightenment (Renaissance), fame and superstardom

Cultural impact: 30 percent of the population, 50 percent of the power

Green (postmodern, group)

With the emergence of green in the 1960s, came a sensitizing to the plight of the human race. Blue and orange have been destroying the planet through creating saints and sinners, winners and losers, and green seeks to deconstruct these value structures to better humanity. At this stage, emotions become more important than logic, decisions are reached through reconciliation and consensus. Take care of the planet, be a good person and don’t be so greedy. Green fails to see the stages of consciousness it traversed to get to its current state and is extremely bad at making decisions, because it’s incapable of deeming one thing better or worse than another. Everything is an egalitarian mush from which little truth and action can be extracted. Green is often incapable of making the changes it idolizes.

Key words: Deconsctruct blue and orange, preserve the planet and be nice

Where seen: Liberal politics, Democratic Party (part green, part orange), political correctness, Greenpeace, animal rights, human rights issues, free health care, United Nations

Cultural impact: 10 percent of the population, 15 percent of the power

Second tier consciousness

Yellow (integrative, individual)

This is the first stage of 2nd tier consciousness. 2nd tier is described by its awareness of the existence of different levels of consciousness. It sees that all levels have a place in the world and that the purpose of 2nd tier consciousness is to use whatever tools are available to traverse the ladder of evolution to help people at whatever stages they’re at. Hierarchies are reintroduced: Knowledge and competency should supersede power, status and group sensitivity. Flexibility, spontaneity and functionality have the highest priority. A belief in intuition.

Key words: Evolution through flexibility

Where seen: Rarely, mainly in individuals, but to some extent in the growing number of integral businesses

Cultural impact: 1 percent of the population, 5 percent of the power

Turquoise (holistic, group)

Consciousness that unites feeling with knowledge. Believes in universal order, but not based on external rules (blue) or group bonds (green). Often involves emergence of cosmocentric spirituality. Global consciousness – it’s possible to make money while taking good care of the planet and workers. In fact, it’s not only possible, through the turquoise perspective, it is seen as the BEST way to make money. Uses the entire spiral, can access any stage at will and can read between the lines. The insight of turquoise into human nature is so vast that it can be perceived as being psychic, even though that is not necessarily the case.

Key words: Global consciousness

Where seen: In rare individuals who have integrated spirituality with the rational world of science and matter

Cultural impact: 0.1 percent of the population, 1 percent of the power

An introduction to Gnosticism

by Peter Kessels, posted August 22, 2010

Fragment of the gnostic Nag Hammadi scriptures that were discovered in 1945.

When Eivind visited me at my home in Weert, Netherlands in May of 2010, we watched The Last Temptation of Christ together. Eivind was working on a review of the movie at the time and as we share a growing interest in archetypes, mature masculinity, and mysticism, it inspired a good dialogue between us about the movie. I was inspired to take up my research on Gnosticism as a result and when Eivind asked me to write an introduction to this ancient Christian mystical tradition, I took him up on the offer.

In their seminal work on the KWML archetypes, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette mention the Gnostics as prime examples of the Magician archetype. The KWML archetypes are an evolution of the breakthrough work on archetypes done by Jung almost 70 years earlier, whereas Jung in turn took his original ideas from Philo, a Gnostic who lived 2,000 years ago. In observing this historical lineage, we see that core themes of our contemporary men’s movement is based on the 2000-year old gnostic tradition. Who were these early pioneers of psychology, mathematics, philosophy and spirituality? Let’s find out.

In this article, I adopt the definition of Gnosticism as introduced by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, who describe it as an attitude towards life and spirituality, which is opposed to Literalism. This way, any individual’s spiritual practice can be seen somewhere on the spectrum between these two poles. A person on the Literalist end of this spectrum would see his Scriptures as the word of God, place value on the outer aspects of his religion’s teachings, initiation myths and rituals. He sees his own religion as offering the Truth while other religions do not, and will go to war if his belief system comes under threat. A Literalist identifies with the collective with which he shares his beliefs.

Gnostics, however, see the words in the teachings, parables and myths as pointing to something beyond their common meaning, to something which paradoxically cannot be captured in words, to the ineffable Mystery. They see themselves on a journey of personal transformation, and accept truth from any source. They follow their hearts, not the herd. Gnostics are free spirits consumed by their own private quest, not by the goal of recruiting more adherents to a religion.

This definition of Gnosticism is different from what most scholars use, and the reason I adopt this definition is because it is actually useful. Rather than making a distinction between different religions, we’ll look at different attitudes which occur within every one of those religions. What we then see, is that a Christian Gnostic is closer to a Muslim or Buddhist Gnostic than to a Christian Literalist. Throughout history, intolerant Literalists have brutally oppressed Gnostics, while the opposite never occurred. In the West, the Literalist Roman Catholic Church has eradicated gnostics, a crime from which we still haven’t recovered; since the Gnostics were the carriers of wisdom and research of their time, an incredible wealth of knowledge and literature has been destroyed.

In 1945, Christian gnostic texts (along with works by Plato) were found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The farmer who found them by accident subsequently destroyed some of them and sold the rest, not realizing what treasure he had unearthed. After all the surviving texts were gathered, translated and interpreted, a process which has taken 30 years, scholars have shed new light on the origins of Christianity, enabling an interpretation of the gospels which is radically different from what the Literalist Churches have been trying to tell us.

Christian Gnostics were political radicals who preached liberty, equality and brotherhood centuries before the French Revolution. The first Christian monasteries where egalitarian communities, where property was held in common and women were treated as equals. It was the accepted practice for male Christian Gnostics to travel with a female spiritual partner, whom they referred to as “sister-wife”. While some schools were ascetic in nature, some saw sexuality as a celebration of the union of God and Goddess, from which all life springs. They are said to have sometimes practiced sacramental nudity in church and even ritual intercourse. The Literalist Epiphanius desribes his experience as a young man of 20, meeting two pretty Gnostic women who invited him to one of their agapes or love feasts, which turned out to be an orgy. With the horror characteristic of the deeply repressed, Epiphanius was outraged that these Gnostics believed that they ‘must ceaselessly apply themselves to the mystery of sexual union’.

Ibn Arabi, a Sufi known as the Great Master, believed that women were a potent incarnation of Sophia – the Goddess Christianity once had but lost (the deity in Abrahamic religions rules alone) – because they inspired in men a love that was ultimately directed towards God. Like the libertine Christians, he venerated sex as a spiritual practice which could help human beings participate in the cosmic sexuality through which the Mystery knows itself. He even translated a Sanskrit scripture on Tantric Yoga into Persian!

Not all Gnostics were such party animals, however, and this touches upon the core of Gnosticism: spirituality is a personalized affair, and individualism is key. Instead of dogma, initiates are put on a path of self-discovery, leading through different stages of initiations, and the ultimate goal is to achieve gnosis: direct experience of the Mystery. The early Christian Gnostics recognized that different people had different levels of awareness, which they divided into hylics, psychics and pneumatics.

In Greek, hyle means matter, and hylics is a term for people who regard values as material: as things handed to them from an external source. With this conviction, the hylic has cut himself off from his own compassion as the source of all values. For this reason, the Gnostics see such a person as lost: he does not know where he came from, nor where he is going. He has lost his inner compass. The gnostic Valentinus called this aporia, which means confusion. For a hylic, any felt sense of compassion which doesn’t fit within his own convictions is experienced as evil temptation. This is why a hylic is always at war with himself: his inner world is his enemy.

A psychic is in contact with his compassion, but does not act on it. It’s the attitude of the rationalist: feelings are irrational and therefore unreliable. Peace of mind is reached only by freeing yourself from desire. Gnostics reject peace of mind as the goal of a spiritual life. If you want to let love play a role in your life, you will have to be prepared to be vulnerable, to let it cut into your soul, and therefore to allow your piece of mind to be disturbed. A psychic, however, thinks he can liberate himself from suffering. He continually attempts to tame his soul until it is silent. Like the hylic, a psychic has made is inner world into an enemy.

For the Gnostics, the pneumatic was the idealized type of person: a human being who has inner freedom, and who is motivated by love. Pneumatics experience love as the source of all compassion. Love is fundamentally different from the solidified faith of the hylic and the peace of mind of the psychic. The core of the gnostic way of life is that love can only blossom in total openness to all that is. Only a person who has made peace with himself, who has stopped to fight himself, can obtain this level of openness. In practice, this means that you disarm yourself, take off your armor, and that you are prepared to be touched, even by pain and sorrow.

The Christian Gnostic schools used to let anybody enter who wanted to do so, but they had different levels of initiation. Psychics were taught the Outer Mysteries, and had a literal interpretation of the gospels. For this purpose, the gospels were written as stories designed to draw people in, and to be used as reminders of what was expected of initiates (with Jesus being a prime example). The Roman Catholic Church (and all later deviations) were based on these outer, or exoteric, teachings. These same gospel stories, however, had other hidden meanings as well, sometimes even with multiple layers. These hidden meanings were only revealed to people who had grown into the pneumatic stages. These were completely different from the literal interpretation, but have been repressed by the Church. When the Roman empire needed a single religion to unite the empire, exoteric Christianity was used for that aim. Maybe it was too hard to build a power base on the esoteric parts? Alas, the Gnostics were thereafter made into heretics – their wisdom was lost – and the Dark Ages began.

The Gnostics were way ahead of their time, and their teachings couldn’t get a foothold in these early days. It is only in recent times that it has become safe to practice it freely and so the path has been cleared, making the resurrection of this mystical tradition in modern form possible. By entering the gnostic path of self-knowledge, you are stepping into a long lineage of great men, from Plato to Plotinus to Jung. Gnosticism is a path to authenticity, love, compassion and enlightenment and we find echoes of it in such contemporary men’s movements as The Authentic Man Program. It looks like its time has finally come.

Hollywood as a lens to the American shadow

by Eivind Figenschau Skjellum, posted September 22, 2013

The US is a country that has not experienced foreign powers on home turf after its formation*. One would think this would lead the American mind to a place of harmony and peace. Yet, Hollywood moviemaking features an unmatched number of movies with invasions, presidential kidnappings, burning government buildings etc.

Why is it that Hollywood has such tremendous fascination with spectacular attacks on the USA, when, disregarding a few isolated examples, relatively few in number, they bear so little connection to reality? What can we deduce about the American psyche by really examining this odd phenomenon?

Come with me now on a journey of exploring this paradox.


4th of July, 1776 was the day the Declaration of Independence changed the history of the world. It was a time of war and of a revolution in consciousness. For at this crossroads, the founding fathers authored a document that would not only lay the foundation for a new and great nation, but bring into being a consciousness the world had not yet known: The understanding that all men are created equal.

Ever since the signing of this revolutionary document, the United States has enjoyed a history remarkably free of real (not imagined) threat at home.

olympus-has-fallen-quad-poster-uk_th_thumb3What I realized in a plane somewhere above Greenland recently was that Hollywood seems not to have noticed. Headed towards Washington DC, I watched two movies that featured presidents being kidnapped and evil powers invading or threatening from afar. The movies were GI Joe Retaliation and Olympus Has Fallen.

Whenever I’m on a transatlantic flight, I find myself in a liminoid space – as if I’m in a death process of sorts. And from that space of heightened awareness of the unconscious realm, this made no sense to me at all. It struck me as deeply paradoxical.

Shortly after my trip, White House Down was announced, its imagery and theme almost mirroring Olympus Has Fallen, further strengthening my desire to investigate.

The US: Origin story

mayflower_thumb2The history of the US started in 1620 with a ship called the Mayflower. The vessel, en-route to New England, carried about a hundred people. They were largely Puritans who sought a life free from religious prosecution, but also craftsmen of all kinds. The white man had arrived on American shores. This time for good.

What level of influence on contemporary American life does this ship and its passengers have? What does it mean that the first American settlers were pious people fleeing religious prosecution? It is hard to say. But I see today pious paranoia featured prominently in places such as Fox News. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The passengers of the Mayflower set a precedence.

Then, in 1775, come the English. Greedy for power and control, they are not about to let this new and bountiful continent depart from the Commonwealth without a fight. But the French, Dutch and Spaniards intervene on the side of the 13 freedom-seeking American territories, and together, the coalition win the war. The United States is born. A new chapter in the history of the world starts.

And yet, however traumatic these events must have been to the fledgling US psyche, I don’t believe they fully explain the paranoia Hollywood displays in its moviemaking. Most European countries have been through hardships greater and more terrible than those of the US and yet their movie output seem to feature much fewer examples of these themes.

Searching for clues along the Washington Mall

When I arrived at the Mall in DC, I was drawn particularly to the newest addition to the Smithsonian: The Museum of the American Indian. This is a beautiful building and a wonderful exhibition – worth a visit. Walking through its curved halls, studying the traumatic history of the American Indian, the flash of insight I’d had on the plane started crystallizing. What does it amount to in but a few words?

museum-of-the-american-indian_thumbThe United States was stolen.

When the white man arrived in North America, he carried germs against which the American indian immune system had no defense. The germs effectively carried out a genocide, wiping out 90% of the Native Americans. NINETY percent. Just pause at the magnitude of that for a few seconds.

The white man had little trouble dealing with the remaining Native american resistance. In an effort to create a good life for themselves and their families, citizens of this new nation took the land from the Native American. And in just a few years, they managed to virtually wipe out the American Buffalo, the animal so sacred to the Native American, showing in the process, true to the Western industrial mindset, their horrific contempt of the miracle and mystery of nature and its inherent sacred order.

American_bison_k5680-1_thumb2.jpgWhat happened was the start of great things. The way that it happened was very wrong.

In observing this, something shifts in me and I’m pulled into a very deep place, one of unmourned dead, uncried tears, unshaken shakes, unshouted screams and unspoken guilt. A place which this museum puts us in more intimate connection with.

The deep place I’m tuning into is the same place of shadow and grief that has completely consumed Nathan Algren as The Last Samurai, one of the movies reviewed on this site, opens. He is traumatized, so guilty and ashamed for the terrible things he has done to the Native Americans. His superior Colonel Bagley, however, is not feeling any of that; he enjoys the emotional disconnection expected of any good soldier. Nathan, however, is not a soldier; he is a Warrior. And the actions he has carried out on behalf of the invading white man are hostile to his soul.

America’s curse

I have come to develop a deep fascination for and respect of the teachings of depth psychology (the branch of psychology which includes the unconscious).

In the process of deepening my understanding of the pervasive influence our unconscious minds exert on us, both individually and collectively, I have come to realize the importance of grieving that which was wrong and of discharging traumas. Whenever traumas are repressed, they fester. Eventually, they take us over.

robert-bly-1986_thumb3The stealing of the United States from the American indian and the subsequent pillage and rape of the land which the American Indian considered sacred is a trauma that, as far as I can tell, has not yet been discharged. It has become shadow – the leper child stowed in the basement.

American poet and founder of the Men’s movement Robert Bly has spoken much of this, of the repression of emotion that is required to live in this world as if it’s a place of sanity. He laments the lack of grieving in American culture. He laments the lack of grieving for the plight of the Native American. He laments the lack of grieving for the plight of the US war veterans, worshipped and idealized while still fit to represent heroic ideals, yet discarded the minute their bodies and minds take on the scars of war.

In observing all these Hollywood movies with stories of threats from afar and dark conspiracies from within, it may prove interesting to reflect on the following: The threat from afar was once the white man.

In the absence of fully feeling, grieving and discharging the impact of the plight of the Native American on the collective US psyche, protection mechanisms have been put in place.

One of these mechanisms is a powerful army. Its use in combat against a perceived threat conveniently distracts from the unhealed trauma at home.

Staying in conflict thus becomes an imperative.

A Warrior culture in need of a King

whitehouse-down-trailer-2-010_thumb2What do these movies with burning White Houses, exploding Capitol Buildings, kidnapped presidents and evil lurking in the shadows tell me? It tells me of a constant fear in the collective US psyche that the leadership of the nation, and thus the harmonizing force of the King archetype, will disappear, be corrupted or otherwise destroyed. The axis mundi is under threat, much like it once was for the Native American civilization.

In observing that, I note that Hollywood voices a deeper truth – many Americans, like so many other people in the world, don’t feel safe. And in looking for the source of this pervasive sense of unsafety, many people, particularly the more conservative and ethnocentric, cannot bear to seek inside – for there waits the pain of the Native American trauma and a whole host of other repressed emotions. And so, they look outside for the nemesis, while heading for the nearest gun store flying the banner of individual freedom. Blinded by the hercules complex, they may call it courage. Though they would be wrong. It is the opposite.

If I wish to avoid confronting myself, I’d better confront another. Thus, I can feel safe in my identity as long as I have an enemy. Seeing that tendency in the American psyche puts the American obsession with being custodians of world peace, guardians of humanity, in new and troubling light.

The American world policing seems to come from a misplaced attempt at healing trauma as opposed to a place of empowerment. It seems a striving for redemption, partly fuelled, I believe, by an identity formed through heroic efforts in World War II, the last honorable war the United States engaged in, and partly through ethnocentric, religious zealotry.

As I alluded to above, a Warrior can feel on purpose as long as he stays engaged in conflict. There is something to fight for, something to rally around. Pausing to contemplate whether the fighting serves the transpersonal purpose essential to the mature Warrior is easily forgotten – any kind of fighting will have a Warrior feel alive.

But if there is no harmonizing King energy to facilitate the fighting, the acts of fighting become pointless, inevitably ending up destroying the world as opposed to defending it, much like the Buddhist myth of the crane and the crab (the crane is a symbol of the Warrior).

Hollywood’s constant display of the fragility of the American axis mundi should be of great concern. Without that axis mundi, a Warrior, like the crane in the myth, ends up eating the fish it swore to protect. And if we are to believe the myth, the crane gets its head clipped off.

Signs of our times, the building financial bubble being one of them, suggest that the head of the US is about to get clipped off. And with the pervasive influence ethnocentric, religious zealots have in the US now, that is something large parts of the world is rightly afraid of.

In the process of bringing the American leper child up from the basement into the light, we are running short on time. Hollywood movies like the Last Samurai and Dances with Wolves as well as the museum for the American Indian on the Washington Mall have made honorable contributions to this process.

But it’s not enough. In the act of constellating a strong axis mundi for the US and the rest of the world, we must all get busy, stepping into healthy leadership wherever we can.

The US story is the human story

If you have an anti-American bent, you may have felt a certain sense of glee reading this article. Watch out for that one. For this is not an American story, it truly is the human story. All across the world are countries where militarism, ego and paranoia are used to distract from the real issue. We have a world scene lacking in healthy King energy and it is our collective responsibility to address this situation.

I got a small taste of what that might mean for me when, on my trip, I had the privilege to share my views with an American woman trained as a Native American Grandmother. She nodded as I shared my views on Hollywood movies and their relationship to the Native American trauma and replied “I’m so glad you see that. Maybe you should tell someone about that.”

So I did.

*there was an incident with the burning of key government buildings in Washington DC by the English in 1814

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